How to Refinish Wall Paneling

Wall paneling used to be popular.

However, in today's housing market, wood paneled walls do little more that "date" your house. Such out-of-style sepia-toned walls can tarnish even the most vibrant décor. Luckily, you can refinish old paneled walls with just a few simple steps and a couple of basic tools. While basic refinishing will not wholly replicate modern drywall, it will remove the dated appearance of a wood paneled space, making the room look cleaner, crisper and brighter.

Use a paint roller and paintbrush to apply primer to the wall paneling. High-quality primers like Kilz (see Resources) will provide good primer coverage to all types of paneling, even slick, high-gloss paneling. However, if you are using a lower-quality, generic primer, you'll most likely need to degloss the paneling first using a liquid deglosser (see Resources).

Wait for the primer to dry. This will typically take at least 1 hour, but you should always consult the primer container for the most accurate drying times.

Begin refinishing the surface by brushing on latex paint for a more contemporary color and sheen. Paint that dries with a "satin finish" is typically preferred for most projects, but any type of finish will work since you've properly primed the surface.

Begin roller painting the major surfaces of the wall only after you've painted hard-to-reach areas and deep paneling grooves with a brush, as recommended by

Apply a second coat to touch up bare spots when necessary.

Allow at least 24 hours for the newly refinished walls to dry.

Things You Will Need

  • Primer Paint brush Paint roller Liquid deglosser Latex paint


  • In most cases, refinishing the walls with a simple paint job works to update the room and add color to the space. However, if you want to completely mimic a drywalled look, explains that you apply plaster to the grooves in the paneling for a smooth, solid-wall appearance. This technique, however, is very time-consuming and is more costly than repainting.

About the Author

Richard Kalinowski began writing professionally in 2006. He also works as a website programmer and graphic designer for several clients. Kalinowski holds a Master of Fine Arts from Goddard College and a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.